Politically Correct Communication with Deaf Individuals
- Learn the manual alphabet and sign language. Even a little helps!
- Make sure you have the attention of the deaf person before communicating.
- When communicating, focus your attention on the deaf person. If a hearing person comes and interrupts, first excuse yourself a moment, before turning from the deaf person.
- Use facial expression and natural mouth movement.
- If communicating with someone who can lip read, speak slowly and clearly with a normal tone of voice.
- If possible, include the deaf person in the conversation when a hearing person joins. No one likes to be left out.
- Help the deaf person to feel comfortable during social gatherings. Introduce them to your hearing friends.
- Don't refer to the deaf as "deaf and dumb", or as "deaf-mute's".
- Don't insist that the deaf person try and talk.
- Don't place your hands in front of your face or lips when communicating with the deaf. Your face and lips give the deaf many clues to meanings they must see!
- Don't turn away from the deaf person when communicating.
- Don't talk down to a deaf adult. Don't be paternalistic and assume you know what deaf people need or want.
- Don't stare at the deaf person -- it is rude in any culture!
- Don't persist in helping the deaf IF it is not needed. Help, Yes! Embarrass, NO!
- Try and find out the interests and opinions of the deaf and allow them to express themselves freely.
- Don't become discouraged if you have difficulty learning sign language well. Don't be afraid to ask the deaf person to sign slowly, just as you must talk slowly when speaking.
- Don't complain if a deaf person needs your assistance with a phone call.
- Don't forget about deaf people at meetings. They can "take an active part"!
- Some deaf have their doctorate degree, and some have excellent reading ability. But remember that not hearing the sounds, has made it very difficult for the average deaf person to learn vocabulary and grammar. The average reading level of the average deaf is about grade 5 (more or less). Keep this in mind and learn the approximate reading level of the deaf person, and work with that level.
- Deaf people are often discriminated against in the work place. Not only is the unemployment rate higher, but often being passed by for promotions, often leaves deaf under paid, and under-employed (and sometimes also frustrated!)
- The "Deaf World" has its own culture with what is accepted and not accepted! On the one hand you often find more hugging, on the other, the deaf world does not "pussy foot around" like the hearing, but may be much more blunt and frank about expressing opinions, likes and dislikes!
- Deaf have often been left out, mistreated, controlled and manipulated by the hearing world. Underneath there may be a high level of distrust, until you have proved your love, responsibility and reliability, and that you are not there to control and manipulate them but to accept them as equal individuals to you.
- Deaf "Signs" will vary from place to place just like a Newfoundland or New York or Southern "accent". Signs will vary somewhat around North America.
- Deaf may be unaware of things you think are common knowledge. Remember, they often have missed hearing many of the little do's and don'ts as a child from around home, as well as much of the background information you picked up by over-hearing conversations as a child.
REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE:
"Do unto others, as you would like them to do to you!"
IF YOU ARE HEARING AND HAVE A DEAF CHILD:
- Try and fully accept that your child "is deaf"! Do not be afraid to let your child join the "Deaf World". You may wish to become an auxillary member of the Deaf World yourself! Much harm has been done by hearing parents who try to make profoundly deaf children function like little hearing children. Accept the deafness, and enjoy both the Hearing AND the Deaf World!
- Join a local Parents Support Group of some type. If there is none, join together with other parents and start one.
- As the children get older, join a local Association of the Deaf. Go to the meetings. Meet deaf adults. Become active with your deaf child. Your child needs deaf role models!
- Consider going to a church which provides a program for the deaf, or at least an interpreter.
There are Coloring Books available (see ADM's set of three), Christian values & Bible Story educational videos available, and easy English Bibles (see our comparative list in the Spiritual section.) Two sources for a list of Churches having a ministry with the deaf:
- ADM has a list of Adventist groups: ADM Directory List
- Go to one of the best Internet Search Engines: www.google.com and type in the words "deaf ministry" and you will find many others around the world.
- Learn to Sign. This is perhaps the most important key to love and communication with your deaf child in the years to come!
- Be informed! Look up the Web Sites on Deafness. We have many listed, and those sites list many more! Through these sites, there are many excellent books available. Read them to help you understand your child, and appreciate and grow to love the "Deaf World"!